The taxation regime of berth rental

The taxation regime of berth rental is a relevant issue in the activity of the managers of marinas and tourist ports

by Berardo Lanci*

August certainly represents the period of greatest use of pleasure boats by yachtsmen – shipowners or disponent-owners – moving between different maritime locations. In this context, one of the questions often posed both to yachtsmen and to port and marina managers is that of the taxation regime of berth rental. In this paper, we would like to outline the relevant framework, specifying first of all that to this purpose yachtsman is the individual who uses a boat for his own pleasure purposes, those of his family and guests and, therefore, outside the business, art or profession regimes.

There has been much debate in the past as to define the VAT treatment of the rental of berths because of the possible application of the exemption regime or VAT at the standard rate, currently 22%, or at the reduced rate, 10%. These contrasts were definitively resolved by the European Court of Justice, which in 2005 specified that the rental of berths must be equated with the rental of areas intended for cars parking. This principle was then confirmed and made its own by the same Italian Revenue Agency, which consequently clarified that the rental of berths is subject to VAT at the 22% standard rate.

Although there is no lack – albeit rarely – of judgements by the Italian tax courts that are not fully in line with the above-mentioned principle, it must nevertheless be said that the above-mentioned position represents the position to which operators in the sector adhere, mainly due to the above-mentioned clarification issued by the Italian Revenue Agency. Moreover, it is also important to underline that the yachtsman may be in the different situation where the berth is leased by a private individual (not VAT taxpayer) instead of by the port or marina or by another person operating in the exercise of his business activity.  In this case, the berth lease shall be subject to the 2% registration tax, the lessor not having the subjective requirement for the application of VAT.

The mooring agreement is different from the rent of berth, whereby the concession in use of the berth is accompanied by a series of services such as, for example, the custody of the boat, the connection to water and electricity sockets, the availability of a pilot who can assist in berthing manoeuvres, the use of showers and public spaces. All these services are subject to VAT at the 22% standard rate, also because in most cases they are ancillary to the main service, given – precisely – by the rent.

When the berth is leased by a private individual the berth lease shall be subject to the 2% registration tax, the lessor not having the subjective requirement for the application of VAT.

Lastly, the framework here presented must be completed by mentioning the specific case where the marina resorts – that are compliant with specific national and regional rules – provide the yachtsman with the above-mentioned services if they are aimed at stopping and spending the night inside the pleasure boats moored there. The specificity of this case lies in the fact that marina resorts are assimilated to open-air accommodation facilities and therefore the services rendered to yachtsmen, including berth rental, are subject to VAT at a reduced rate of 10%. If, on the other hand, the service is limited to the rental of the berth, without the use of further services offered by the marina resort, the standard rate of 22% remains applicable.

(The taxation regime of berth rental – Barchemagazine.com – August 2022)